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The NFL Is Back, and We’re Already Sick of Watching Mitchell Trubisky

It’s early, but the Bears passer put up a particularly ineffective performance against the Packers and is showing an alarming lack of development for a quarterback entering his third year

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears defense dominated the Packers on Thursday night. Chicago held Green Bay to zero first downs on their first three drives, where the Packers netted a total of negative-12 yards. Across the whole game the Bears held the Packers offense to two of 12 on third-down conversions (16.7 percent), allowed just 213 yards, and sacked Aaron Rodgers five times. But of course, that dominance did not put points on the board for Chicago. The Packers won 10-3. The Bears screamed juggernaut in their loss everywhere except at quarterback, where Mitchell Trubisky seems to have taken Blake Bortles’s place as the league’s premiere misdrafted top-three QB who will hold back an otherwise Super Bowl contender from reaching its potential.

From start to finish, Trubisky was put in a position to succeed but failed to do anything to help the team win. On their first drive, the Bears began with excellent field position. The ball was on their 43-yard line and they gained two first downs, but a Trubisky sack took them out of field goal range. The defense forced a three-and-out and gave the Bears the ball back just 36 yards from the Packers’ end zone, but they gained just 16 yards and kicked a field goal with 4:14 left in the first quarter. They did not score again. Here are all of Chicago’s drives from Thursday night:

  • 7 yards, punt
  • 16 yards, field goal
  • 19 yards, punt
  • 34 yards, punt
  • 22 yards, punt
  • 0 yards, punt

Halftime

  • 2 yards, punt
  • 9 yards, punt
  • 57 yards, turnover on downs
  • 38 yards, punt
  • 59 yards, interception
  • -9 yards, turnover on downs

Trubisky finished with 26 completions on 45 attempts for 228 yards (5.1 yards per attempt), one interception, and about a half-dozen near interceptions. Some of the near-picks came early.

After the Bears defense controlled the first quarter, Chicago found itself down 7-3 in the second quarter after Rodgers launched a 47-yard bomb to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and then found tight end Jimmy Graham for a touchdown. But Trubisky had the opportunity to drive the Bears downfield at the end of the first half, a massive opportunity considering the Bears would get the ball back to start the second half and could double dip with two scores. Even Madden players know how valuable that is. Yet Chicago couldn’t even single dip. Five Trubisky dropbacks led to a combined 2 yards and two three-and-outs on those two drives, leaving the score 7-3 Green Bay in the third quarter. The Packers tacked on a field goal midway through the fourth quarter to push the lead to 10-3, but the Bears were given a golden opportunity for Trubisky to lead a game-tying drive with just over three minutes remaining from their own 25-yard line. The team marched nearly 60 yards and reached Packers territory, but Trubisky shorted an easy touchdown to running back Mike Davis along the sideline that could have been picked if the Packers’ defensive back had turned his head around.

Trubisky was hit right as he threw, but if he had the presence of mind to roll to his right (his specialty is throwing on the run to his right), he would have had plenty of time to loft a better pass. Just two plays later, Trubisky floated a ball into double coverage on third-and-10 that was poetically intercepted by Adrian Amos, the former Bears safety who signed with Green Bay this spring.

Amazingly the Bears defense held the Packers to another three-and-out and got Trubisky the ball back just 25 seconds of game time later, albeit at his own 14-yard line after a 63-yard punt by JK Scott. On their last-gasp drive, he went 1-of-3 for 2 yards and took a sack on fourth down to effectively end the game.

Every year we overreact to Week 1, and it would be easy to dismiss this three-point performance in the first game of the year as a team knocking off rust. There’s a lot of football left. After all, Chicago also lost a heartbreaking game to Green Bay in Week 1 last year and still went 12-4 and won the NFC North. But Trubisky’s horrible performance did not occur in a vacuum—it aligns with everything we’ve seen from him in his career.

Concerns about Trubisky go back years. He spent three years on the bench at the University of North Carolina, unable to win the starting job until his fourth year, when he had a modest season. The Bears traded up from the no. 3 pick in the 2017 draft to the no. 2 pick to take Trubisky despite bidding against nobody, then the next two quarterbacks off the board were Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Two years later those players are MVP candidates while Trubisky is still not capable of working an offense of more than half-field reads. A half-field read is exactly what it sounds like: The offensive coordinator calls a play that cuts the field in half so the quarterback doesn’t have to read the whole field. It’s a trick usually used for rookie quarterbacks adjusting to the NFL, but in Year 3 Trubisky still struggles to see the whole field or make basic NFL throws consistently. He underthrows players, he overthrows players, and he throws into closing windows because he notices them too late. Hell, he even struggles with basic NFL decisions, like not throwing across his body into good coverage.

This is what Trubisky’s done his entire NFL career. He doesn’t look much better now than he did two years ago, which is the most concerning thing you can say about a healthy third-year quarterback. Bears head coach Matt Nagy came from Kansas City, where he helped Alex Smith, but he’s not a miracle worker.

Trubisky’s outing is a shame considering he was put in position to succeed by his teammates. Rookie running back David Montgomery was great in limited action, and it seems like his college talent for tackle-breaking will translate to the NFL. Top receiver Allen Robinson looks to have recaptured his pre-ACL-tear form as one of the league’s most underrated receivers (poor Robinson has gone from Bortles to Trubisky). The defense looked best of all, barely missing a beat after last year’s epic run under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, despite year-to-year defensive performance being difficult to repeat. There is little more the Bears can ask of Khalil Mack and their defense beyond holding Green Bay to 10 points, the fewest they have scored in a game that Rodgers finished since November of 2015, which was against the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. But with Trubisky at quarterback, even that isn’t enough.

“We knew if we could get Mitchell Trubisky to play quarterback we could win,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams told WFRV Sports’ Lily Zhao after the game. For the Bears, it’s hard not to think that from the opposite perspective: As long as Trubisky plays quarterback, they could always lose.